Civil Society of #Assam writes to the Chief Justice of India on the humanitarian crisis unleashed by Suspicious and Mischievous Re-Verification Notices by #NRC Authority of Assam
The contested citizenship question in Assam has real human costs. This is a list of NRC/D-Voter suicides based mostly on the deaths that got publicly reported.
My first personal introduction to the flurry of activities that would be associated with the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam was in June 2015. My partner and I were in Australia for a conference, when my father left several text messages for us to call him. He wanted the exact spelling of my deceased father-in-law’s name, as well as the name of his village in Nagaland. “Where have you both kept your school and college certificates?” he asked when I called. Thus it began, a scramble for documents that would prove that I was indeed a citizen of India, who was from Assam and had a formidable array of evidence as proof. My father explained that my partner’s details would be sent to Nagaland and once the administration there verified the details sent to them, she too would be included in the NRC.
A petition was submitted to the President of India on January 8, 2019 by 135 academics, lawyers and activists urging upon him to uphold human rights and ensure justice for around one million people (10 lakh) in Assam, who have been excluded through the NRC process. The petition also urges upon the President of India, as the custodian of the Indian Constitution, to advise the central government to withdraw the Citizenship Amendment Bill which explicitly discriminates on the ground of religion and violates the constitutional principle of equality.
The Axom Nagarik Samaj’s (Citizen Community of Assam) recent pamphlet, “NRC and Why is it Important?,” seems to have gone with the tried and tested narrative template of Assamese nationalist discourse. A forum of prominent intellectuals including writer and former police officer Harekrishna Deka, journalists Ajit Bhuyan and Prasanta Rajguru, and academic Dr. Akhil Ranjan Dutta among others, Axom Nagarik Samaj claims to represent the legitimate demands of the “indigenous communities” of Assam for protection against the “heavy influx” of illegal migrants from Bangladesh that “threatens their political, economic and social space.” The document hardly stands out for its literary ingenuity, even less so for its political vision. They present a narrative that has been the staple of Assamese nationalist discourse, available for consumption at least since the late-1970s and extremely popular during the Assam Movement. Unfortunately, for the authors, they are not living in 1982. In reproducing this discourse today, they also reinforce the blind-spots that have afflicted this fantasy of a harmonious, multi-ethnic pastoral Assam, rudely intruded upon by colonialism and outsiders.
Is there a higher Rate of Exclusion from NRC in Bengali Hindu dominated Districts of Assam? In absence of official disaggregation of the 4 million left out of the Final Draft of NRC, grassroots activists and senior journalists have been crunching local data and discovering some surprising trends. Assam has 33 Districts presently, of which 10 districts have a more than 50% Muslim population. However, other than Darrang, all other, nine, Muslim dominated districts of Assam are seeing lower percentage drop rates from the NRC draft list as compared to other Districts with a lesser Muslim population… This overall situation has created trepidation, fear and dis-satisfaction amongst the state leadership of BJP.
Though political schisms exist between tribal political subjectivity and forces representing Assamese ruling elites, yet both tribal and non-tribal people of Assam consider continued migration into Assam as a shared problem that must be adequately addressed.
There is no correct political position to be assumed on this issue, except the one which aims at addressing long standing historical demands without resulting in mass displacement and injury to anyone. More than anything, at this particular juncture, one has to be careful about the BJP and the communal forces it is willing to unleash.
Those who are demanding that NRC should be rolled back, should seriously think about the full implications of what they are saying. (Here I am not talking about those people who have some criticism about this or that aspect of the NRC process, but who at the end of the day, believe that NRC can and should be saved). If NRC is rolled back, this is what is going to happen.
Some Q & A on NRC. Might sound repetitive and self evident . But people need to be told, because some know too little, some know it all wrong and some are deliberately being informed all wrong…
Bottom line is that there are complexities in this country that cannot be fit into ideological straightjacket or ready to serve linear narratives. Should the empathy for the stateless (although let us remember 40 lakh is a ‘draft figure’, yet to be finalised and there is no ‘official’ position on the ‘punitive measures’ to be taken) not essentially co-exist with empathy and concern for those coerced into sharing resources and habitats to waves and waves of immigrants? Or perhaps feeling for both( the one’s seeking a home and the one’s loosing their homes and fields) compromises one’s ‘politics’?
Submit papers and make your NRC
Do you want to be happy
Do you want to be live in Assam
Submit papers and make your NRC
If you have no papers go to Bangladesh
The lack of outrage in progressive quarters over NRC updation or detention of suspected foreigners is worth mulling over. Do they not see that perfectly innocent people are being incarcerated on dubious grounds by the Foreigners’ Tribunals? Or, that people are going bonkers trying to procure the right NRC papers, and killing themselves when they are unable to? Most of the unfortunates are Muslims – 70% of those lodged in detention camps are Muslims. Some, though Hindu, speak Bengali. But the considerations of religion and language were important to the blood and soil politics-propagating rightists. Not to the left, who stand by the marginalised. Indeed, should they err, it better be on the side of the weak. Or, so one thought. Unfortunately, as a friend put it, it has become hard to distinguish the position of the left from that of the right. What explains the want of empathy?
It must be put on record that the consensus on NRC makes no distinction on the basis of language, religion or ethnicity for people who could prove their credentials from before the cut-off date of 24th March 1971. To portray the process of NRC as against any particular linguistic or religious community is, therefore, to subvert the very basis of social harmony and established democratic values.”
A Statement on Fact-Finding Report by “United Against Hate” & “Avaaz” online campaign for intervention by UN by FORUM AGAINST AMENDMENT OF CITIZENSHIP ACT BILL
Debates on National Register of Citizens no longer remain confined to the borders of Assam (and North East). United Against Hate, an Indian Human Rights…
On 30th June, the complete draft list of NRC will be published, a narrative has been constructed, mostly by BJP leaders and the Sangh Parivar that 30th June will decide the fate of who is a citizen and who not. This narrative of finality has been spearheaded by powerful BJP minister Himanta Biswa Sarma who has been repeatedly saying that 30th June 2018 will decide ‘friend or foe of Assam”. This imposed narrative has, understandable, created anxiety and fear among many people, especially Muslims of East Bengali origin.
That being the situation, If any issue related to NRC is sensationalized without proper substantiation or due to lack of understanding of the nuances related to the process, one may unintentionally further strengthen the conspiracy of fear that is being spread by the Sangh parivar.
The bill is flawed because of its omissions. One wonders why the bill is selective about providing refuge to religious minorities of three Muslim-majority countries. Is it because that would exclude Muslims? Sri Lanka and Myanmar are India’s neighbours too, where religious minorities including Muslims are persecuted. Mass torture of the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar is a case in point. Why not extend the special treatment to them? Is it because that would enable more Muslims to become Indian citizens? In Pakistan Shias, Ahmedis have been persecuted for long. Are they not being considered because they are Muslims? One can also question why consider religion as the ground for giving refuge. People get persecuted for their political views, for their sexual orientation and many other reasons. Are those minorities not the right kind of persecuted minorities? The bill is clearly against the spirit of secularism.
On the night of 31st December, 2017 the first draft of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) was released in Assam. This has set off a mini-storm in the political scene of Assam, Bangladesh and West Bengal. What is the NRC, why is it being updated and what politics is being played behind the curtain?
Mamata Banerjee should not have poked her nose with half-baked knowledge and make polarising statements like she did yesterday and that is what is highly condemnable. For anyone who is in the know of political developments in Assam, such wild statements are at the least laughable. Updating the NRC is an attempt at bringing a closure to the vexed foreigners’ issue in Assam, an issue over which thousands have lost their lives in Assam. Even though there are many daunting challenges after the final NRC is published and there are many loose ends to tie.
Assam has had a long and bloody history of ethnic violence arising from extremely complex reasons. Ethnic violence in Assam implicates cultural, political and economic aspects of relations between communities in ways that cannot be captured in a simple majority-minority, or a khilonjia-foreigner dynamic. Here, virtually every community has at one time or another been the victim as well as perpetrator of ethnic violence. And in the shadow of a militarized state, political antagonisms among various communities have often been shaped by the force of arms.